North Korea has reportedly conducted a rocket launch believed to be carrying a satellite on Tuesday, marking its third attempt this year to place its first spy satellite in orbit. Although authorities in South Korea and Japan have not been able to verify if a satellite was successfully placed in orbit, the launch does raise concerns about North Korea’s intentions and technological capabilities.
The rocket launch comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in September, where Putin vowed to assist Pyongyang in building satellites. South Korean officials believe that this recent launch incorporates technical assistance from Moscow, highlighting the growing partnership between the two countries.
The missile was reportedly launched from the Tongchang-ri area, which houses North Korea’s main Sohae satellite launch facility. The Japanese government issued an emergency warning for residents in the south to take cover as a precautionary measure. However, the missile seems to have flown over and past Okinawa towards the Pacific Ocean without causing any immediate damage.
North Korean state media KCNA stated that the country has the “sovereign right” to strengthen its military power against the U.S.-led space surveillance system. In response, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lodged a stern protest and condemned North Korea’s actions, emphasizing that they violate U.N. Security Council resolutions and pose a threat to the safety of Japanese citizens.
This rocket launch also has political implications. Pyongyang has notified Japan of its satellite launch plans previously, as Japan serves as the coordinating authority for the International Maritime Organization for those waters. North Korea considers its space and military rocket programs a sovereign right and plans to develop a fleet of satellites to monitor the movements of U.S. and South Korean troops.
Analysts suggest that spy satellites are vital for improving North Korea’s weapon capabilities. South Korea has previously expressed concerns over North Korea’s provocative actions and violations of agreements aimed at reducing regional tension. In response to the rocket launch, South Korea’s navy announced that the U.S. aircraft carrier Carl Vinson will be entering the South Korean port of Busan to further strengthen the state of readiness against North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats. Additionally, South Korea has plans to launch its own reconnaissance satellite with the assistance of the United States at the end of November.